pic·​a·​yune | \ ˌpi-kē-ˈyün How to pronounce picayune (audio) \

Definition of picayune

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a Spanish half real piece formerly current in the South
2 : something trivial



Definition of picayune (Entry 2 of 2)

: of little value : paltry also : petty, small-minded

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Other Words from picayune


picayunish \ ˌpi-​kē-​ˈyü-​nish How to pronounce picayunish (audio) \ adjective

Did You Know?


In the 19th century, in Louisiana and other southern states, a picayune was a small coin (specifically, a Spanish half real) with a low monetary value. The coin's name derives from picaioun, a word that means "small coin" in Occitan (a language spoken in Southern France). It ultimately derives from the Occitan word pica, which means "to jingle" and which was created to mimic the sound of coins jingling. The real as a monetary unit fell out of use, however, and picayune joined two bits in the category of small amounts of money whose name eventually came to be used instead for things that are paltry and small.

Examples of picayune in a Sentence

Noun our lives don't amount to a picayune in the great scheme of things Adjective They argued over the most picayune details. the picayune ponderings of a commentator who steadfastly believes other cultures are inferior to our own
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective If the last few months should have taught us anything, it’s the realization that who stands at proper attention for a flag and who chooses not to is a rather picayune thing to worry about given our current circumstances as a country. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Opinion: NBA players kneeling during the national anthem doesn't seem like an act of defiance," 1 Aug. 2020 That’s just a small sampling of often picayune, disingenuous, and unreliable factchecks that litter most of the efforts of the Post — which mentions Obama 13 times in a piece about Trump’s speech — the Associated Press, CNN, and so on. David Harsanyi, National Review, "Factcheckers Have Become the Janissaries of the Obama Legacy," 5 Feb. 2020 However picayune and pitifully old-fashioned the bereavement may seem to most people, for me the erosion of style, clarity, and precision in everyday speech and prose is a loss. Lionel Shriver, Harper's magazine, "Semantic Drift," 22 July 2019 These rules may seem picayune, but frequent fliers take them seriously. Christopher Elliott, The Seattle Times, "Travel Wise | On airplanes, personal space is a vanishing commodity. Here’s how to cope.," 22 Oct. 2018 No detail was too insignificant; no question too picayune for our scrutiny. Sarah Lyall, BostonGlobe.com, "There’s a big wedding Saturday. Something about a prince marrying an American," 15 May 2018 No detail was too insignificant; no question too picayune for our scrutiny. Sarah Lyall, BostonGlobe.com, "There’s a big wedding Saturday. Something about a prince marrying an American," 15 May 2018 More often than not, the police station fielded neighborhood disputes that were remarkable for their picayune character. Rukmini Callimachi, New York Times, "The Case of the Purloined Poultry: How ISIS Prosecuted Petty Crime," 1 July 2018 The cascade of picayune tariffs and aggressive trade rhetoric directed indiscriminately against allies and competitors alike could inflict lasting damage on US companies’ ability to compete globally. Zachary Karabell, WIRED, "Trump's Trade War Won't Hurt China. It Could Hurt US Tech," 27 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'picayune.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of picayune


1804, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1836, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for picayune


Occitan picaioun, a small coin, from picaio money, from pica to jingle, of imitative origin

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The first known use of picayune was in 1804

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Cite this Entry

“Picayune.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/picayune. Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for picayune



English Language Learners Definition of picayune

US, informal : not very valuable or important

More from Merriam-Webster on picayune

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for picayune

Nglish: Translation of picayune for Spanish Speakers

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